Although gas companies and governments are doing all they can to inform people about how to use natural gas properly and prevent any residential gas leak and consequently damage (hundreds of people die every year as a result of a gas-leak related incidents), accidents still happen because of malfunctioning appliances or those improperly installed or maintained.
Natural gas we use is odorless, which is why gas distributors need to add that sulfuric odor, making possible to detect it in case of a leak. At the same time, it’s widely believed to be the cleanest and safest fossil fuel source if used properly. So, what is it that is potentially hazardous?
If natural gas doesn’t burn up completely, which might be a consequence of problems with installation or ventilation, carbon monoxide is emitted as a byproduct. Now, this lighter-than-air toxic gas affects people and animals. If you feel a headache, sickness, dizziness, fatigue or experience problems breathing, try to get medical assistance as soon as possible.
One of the ways to prevent major issues is to install a carbon-monoxide detector, which would warn you if the level of this gas is higher than usual. Make sure you hire a professional to install this device and don’t forget to check the batteries on a regular basis.
First of all, you need to assess how serious the situation is. If you’re having trouble breathing or you can hear loud sound of escaping gas, get everybody out of the house or building immediately. It is important that you don’t turn on or of any electrical switches, including your doorbell. Logically, you mustn’t use any open flame in the vicinity. Little less obvious probably, but equally important, is the rule that you mustn’t use a cell phone inside or close to the leak or that you have to open any electronic door or window manually. Only when you’re at a safe distance can you contact the emergency services. Alternatively, you could use your neighbor’s phone to do that.
On the other hand, if you can detect gas, but can still breathe easily, the best thing to do is to open as many windows and doors as possible to ventilate the area. After that you should switch the gas supply off at the meter.
Next step is to find the source. Inspect the stove and make sure all knobs are in the “off” position. The same goes for the oven. If the pilot light on your boiler has gone out, it might be the reason you can smell gas.
Whether or not you’ve identified the problem correctly, you’ll need licensed professionals to carry out any potential gas leak repair in your home. Don’t attempt to fix any gas-related problem on your own, unless you are a licensed professional.
What you can do though is make sure that you’ve hired experts to install the whole system and regularly inspect it. If maintained properly, it shouldn’t cause any problems, let alone threats to you and your family. However, if it happens that there’s a leak, you need to be prepared by having a carbon-monoxide detector installed. This is an inexpensive investment that can save your life.
Also, make sure everyone living with you knows that it’s extremely dangerous to operate any electronic device when there is a gas leak in the house. Finally, even children should be taught what to do and who to contact, in case you’re not at home. Prevention and education have a crucial role in that respect.